Romo knocked down in Cowboys' preseason loss in Miami

Tony Romo walked briskly to the sideline as the first half was winding down, apparently feeling no ill effects of a few hits that sent him to the turf.

Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports

Tony Romo was still standing after the Cowboys' 25-20 preseason loss to the Dolphins on Saturday. That was encouraging news since he was sacked three times in the first half.

This vaunted offensive line wilted at times in the face of Miami's pressure. Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake gave right tackle Doug Free fits. It wasn't a complete disaster on offense, but penalties and other mistakes kept the first-team offense out of the end zone. Dan Bailey connected on two long-range field goals to give the Cowboys a halftime lead.

Here are my observations from Saturday's game:

** No one can stop Dez Bryant in one-on-one coverage. He looked great on a fourth-down slant route. And his ability to work the sideline is remarkable. He then stayed engaged the rest of the game while running up and down the sideline congratulating second and third-teamers.

** Like other teams, the Cowboys are having trouble adjusting to the NFL's emphasis on defensive holding penalties. Orlando Scandrick was flagged in the first quarter even though he appeared to make a clean play on the ball. 

** Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant vs Dolphins tight end Charles Clay in pass coverage is a losing proposition. Durant had no chance as Clay ran a crossing route.

** Starting cornerback Brandon Carr played a little more than expected because the Dolphins' opening drive took a lot of plays. He made a nice tackle in the open field to force a field goal on that drive. 

** Dwayne Harris was excellent returning kicks, but he was forced out of the game when he was tackled awkwardly along the sideline. Harris appeared to suffer a hip injury on the play. The Cowboys need him back for San Francisco.

** Former Oklahoma State cornerback Tyler Patmon forced a fumble and had two interceptions, including a pick six off Matt Moore. He also gave up some big yards, but he's going to force his way onto this roster. 

** Cowboys defensive tackle Davon Coleman used a nice spin move to put pressure on Ryan Tannehill in the first half. Early in the second quarter, embattled linebacker Bruce Carter jumped a route and nearly had a pick six. He played with a lot more confidence. Maybe he's sensing his last chance to earn a starting role. His blocked punt was negated by an odd call on Tyrone Crawford. The officials ruled Crawford lined up over the deep snapper even though he was several steps off the line of scrimmage.

** The Cowboys continue to be awful against the run. Rolando McClain took some poor angles and rookie Anthony Hitchens spent too much diving for big plays. Carter was better than those two in this game.

** Lance Dunbar is a nice third-down back, but he has to stop dropping passes. He is not as sure-handed in the flat as he needs to be. He also needs to be more patient in setting up his blocks.

Dunbar and rookie wideout Devin Street were called for an illegal shift. Neither one seemed to have a clue on the play. In their defense, Romo let the play clock go down too far.

** Defensive end Martez Wilson is a frustrating player to watch because he narrowly misses dynamic plays. He obviously has some ability, but he doesn't play under control. He's either running past ballcarriers or missing tackles.

** Running back Ryan Williams had a tremendous game. He finished runs with authority and showed the ability to make something out of nothing. It felt like he claimed a roster spot Saturday.

** Ahmad Dixon took a horrible angle on a gorgeous deep ball from Matt Moore. Dixon was also called for hitting a defenseless receiver near the end zone. The play set up Miami's game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

"You want to be a smart football player,” Garrett told reporters. “You want to be a guy we can trust. Just because you're a guy who can make big, impact hits doesn't mean we're going to tolerate penalties. That's not what we're going to do. Hopefully he can learn from that situation and understand how they're going to call the game at this level." 

Dixon had trouble controlling himself at Baylor. The Cowboys need him to have a better grasp of what impact his decisions have on the team.

** LaRon Byrd made a beautiful touchdown catch late in the third quarter despite being held. He and Jamar Newsome may be fighting for one of the final spots at receiver. Newsome has made more plays. I think Byrd has a higher ceiling. Newsome's the better special teams player.

** Cornerback Ryan Williams has his moments, but he's not as talented as Terrance Mitchell or Patmon. 

** This defense has the chance to be stunningly bad.